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38 posts from February 2010

Here's the story the Post-Courier refuses to run


OBSERVERS OF the media in PNG are scratching their heads and wondering what the link is between carbon trader Kirk Roberts and the Post-Courier newspaper.

It’s not just that the Post-Courier runs stories favourable to Mr Roberts’ activities. Of real concern is the newspaper’s apparent refusal to publish stories that question his activities, even when they are backed up by the PNG Government.

PNG Attitude has been told by a reliable source that a Post-Courier editor has been quizzed on this seeming lack of fairness and balance in its coverage, but brusquely fobbed off  questions and criticism of what seems like a badly flawed editorial policy.

Earlier this week the PNG Forest Authority placed an advertisement in the Post-Courier which announced that Roberts’ ‘carbon trading’ activities were under investigation.

Just two days later the Post-Courier ran another uncritical front-page story, which one reader described as “a ridiculous and nonsensical pro-Roberts piece”.

Anyway, thanks to Sky News which did manage to pick up the story, here it is:

'Carbon cowboy' in PNG legal spat

Australia's self-proclaimed 'carbon kingpin' Kirk Roberts is being investigated by a PNG government agency for allegedly misleading villagers in deals he hopes will net millions.

Mr Roberts, a former disqualified Australian horse trainer who also ran a Philippines cock-fighting business, once said he was 'the most beneficial foreigner' for PNG and has travelled across the country promoting carbon trading.

Mr Roberts shrugs off widespread criticisms and is adamant he represents numerous landowner groups who want lucrative carbon projects developed under a voluntary system.

But PNG authorities are worried Mr Roberts is undermining existing forestry laws, possibly misleading landowners in remote areas all while exploiting PNG's lack of national carbon trade legislation and policy.

East Pangia, in PNG's rugged Southern Highlands region, is the latest focus of various conflicting opinions that have flared as Mr Roberts promises what many villagers call 'sky money' - because he appears to be selling air.

PNG's Forest Authority managing director, Kanawi Pouru, has taken out a newspaper advertisement reminding Mr Roberts and landowners that East Pangia has already been allocated for logging.

Mr Pouru told AAP the Forest Management Agreement was one of 10 agreed projects identified for development by PNG's government in 2002.

'Roberts' operation obviously raises concerns for us,' he said.

'Our lawyers believe we have grounds to proceed against any moves that prevent an already existing forest plan.

'A commercial agreement with landowners has been entered.

'They can't sign rights away then reassign them to someone else like Roberts.

'We are not against carbon trading but we are being cautious because there is still a very high risk involved and so many rules that have not been sorted out.

'We need to understand the business first.'

The East Pangia FMA still existed and the logging operation would commence as soon as the agreement was executed next month, Mr Pouru said.

'(Mr Roberts) is being investigated and will be dealt with accordingly,' he said.

Last week Mr Roberts was in East Pangia mapping out a carbon project.

He did not answer (emailed) questions regarding the landowner's sudden switch from forestry to carbon trading, or the scientific credibility of his team.

Kuson Waku, a local landowner representative, told PNG's Post Courier newspaper: 'I want to benefit from all the forest.'

The story, supporting Mr Roberts' carbon trading plan, was accompanied by a photo of two locals each holding dead bush rats and tree kangaroos, with a possible implication that wildlife was under threat from logging.

PNG's Department of Environment and Conservation, Environment Ministry, NGOs and the environmental-law community have all raised concerns about Mr Roberts.

But Mr Roberts is no stranger to controversy.

Last year he was linked to the sacking of a top official after receiving dubious 'sample' carbon credit documents. And Mr Robert's company Nupan is tied to an ongoing government investigation of PNG's embattled, mismanaged and now bankrupt Office of Climate Change.

Adelaide-based company Carbon Planet, eyeing a potential billion dollar carbon trading market, in 2008 gave Mr Roberts $1.1 million for projects in PNG but now refuses to comment on their relationship with him.

In December last year, Carbon Planet's founder and chief operating officer Dave Sag walked out of an SBS television interview when asked about Mr Roberts and their PNG deals.

Violence against PNG women ‘highest in world’


AN AUSTRALIAN Senate report on security challenges facing PNG and the Pacific says that rates of violence against women in PNG are amongst the highest in the world.

The report, released yesterday, says violence against women in PNG has been characterised by Amnesty International as 'one of the gravest human rights violations in the region'.

Research has established that two out of every three Papua New Guinean women experience domestic violence and around 50 percent have been subject to forced sex.

The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee said that PNG is relatively stable in strategic terms and does not face any significant external military threat.

But swelling urban areas, unemployment and underemployment present significant security concerns. Population growth rates in PNG are amongst the highest in the world

Prof Helen Hughes and Gaurav Sodhi of the Centre for Independent Studies argued that men, bored and frustrated with lack of opportunity, become involved in robbery, protection rackets, prostitution, drug sales and gambling. They are also easily recruited into criminal enterprises.

Hughes and Sodhi offered a particularly bleak assessment of the connection between underemployment and Pacific security or even underemployment and international criminal activity:

Evidence provided to the committee also suggested that tribal loyalties make PNG difficult to govern with arms proliferation a particular problem in the Southern Highlands.

Referring to the connection between unemployment, poverty and the availability of weapons in PNG, the Department of Foreign Affairs advised that the spread of modern weapons has magnified the impact of urban crime and tribal fighting in the highlands.

Oxfam argued that the spread of illicit firearms also threatens the operation of democratic institutions, as evidenced in PNG during the 2002 elections when up to 50 people were estimated to have been killed.

You can read the entire report here.

Textbook logjam eases for PNG primary schools


A MAJOR breakthrough in the quality of PNG primary schooling is promised by the European Union’s commitment of over K80 million for textbooks.

This will ease a chronic problem in PNG where rural schools have totally lacked books and students in even comparatively well-resourced schools in Port Moresby have been forced to share a single book between five or more students.

European Union ambassador to PNG, Aldo Dell’Ariccia, announced that K94.7 million is being provided to support the education sector, with K83.1 million going to the purchase and distribution of more than 2.6 million textbooks to primary schools.

Ambasador Dell’Ariccia said the program was back on track after experiencing some difficult times.

Education Secretary Dr Joe Pagelio said the EU’s assistance will help to implement reforms in education.

He also said that the Australian government, through AusAID, has purchased and distributed 539,000 textbooks for schools.

Meanwhile, author Eric Johns reports that the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority has reached an advanced stage in writing a new Australian schools curriculum.

“It will be interesting to see where PNG fits into this,” says Eric. “PNG history is a pretty dead topic in Australian schools, except for the Kokoda and Milne Bay wartime campaigns.

“I have looked through the briefing from ACARA used by the curriculum writers and found no mention of PNG. No doubt it will appear somewhere in the detail when the K-10 draft curriculum is placed on line on 1 March - we will see.”

Eric says that the issue of teaching PNG-related topics in Australian schools was brought up at a recent PNGAA committee meeting.

Let’s hope the Association makes representations to ACARA to remedy this deficiency during the current consultation process that ends in June.

Low paid Aussies support PNG elite, says prof


At Mic DR HELEN HUGHES [right] has been around the Pacific for a long time.

Now the emeritus professor, a senior fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, is completing a book that will blow the gaff on how aid has failed the Pacific.

“Taxpayers should be extremely concerned that egregiously high salaries are paid to aid-funded advisers, not because they are earning more than the Prime Minister but because the aid is being wasted,” she writes.

“Capacity building has not merely failed to get Pacific islands to grow, but is responsible for their lack of development.”

Dr Hughes concedes that “some of these advisers do a reasonable enough job” but adds that “many do too little to earn any salaries.”

“Advisers are most numerous in the Solomon Islands and PNG where standards of living for more than 80 percent of the population remain at bare subsistence level.

“Women work in the gardens struggling to get some cash crops to the market. Boys and men hang around smoking ganja and drinking beer.

“There are no jobs. There is no running water or electricity. Women give birth in the bush. Literacy is estimated to be 25 percent, principally in urban areas. The more enterprising lads drift to towns where there are also no jobs. Crime is the realistic alternative.

“In Port Moresby and Lae, expatriate triads run gangs of raskol that manage the breaking-and-entering, gambling, prostitution and illegal immigration. They probably earn more than the Prime Minister of China.”

Dr Hughes believes that “aid supports elites who live comfortable lives while most of their peoples remain in poverty. The Pacific elites send their children to international schools or to boarding schools in Australia.

“Australian aid to the Pacific has been an example of transferring funds from low-income earners in Australia to high-income Pacific elites,” Dr Hughes says.

Source: The Australian, 22 February 2010

PNG education in 1967: the pace quickens


THE BLATCHFORD COLLECTION, my abstracts of extensive files tracking the development of the PNG education system from the war years to independence in 1975, today reaches 1967.

It is a year in which TPNG, still a territory, is concentrating on preparing for self-government. While dates have not been set for political change, it is now accepted that national independence is not too far away.

David Hay, the new Administrator, arrives to lead the way, but Canberra reminds the House of Assembly who’s in charge.

It threatens to flex its financial muscles to show that Australia is still in control and suggests that, unless there is a harmony of views, the level of Australian aid will be reviewed.

The Pangu Pati (Papua and New Guinea Union) is formed and pushes for full ministerial responsibility and executive government. But the party chairman, Oala Oala Rarua, is sacked from Pangu for saying he wants independence by 1970.

Education deliberates its future direction and what form each level of education is to take.

Meetings are held with the missions, discussions undertaken with other departments, and submissions sent to Canberra. Director Ken McKinnon and Territories head Les Johnson want a national system of education.

A conference on educational development is held with the missions, where it is recommended that a six year primary curriculum be considered, a national education board and district education boards be established, and there be closer cooperation between the government and missions especially in regard to planning.

A Secondary Planning Group is established, the Education Services Division is created and the Management Services Division is in the pipeline.

The economic cost of education remains important. McKinnon says Local Government Councils must bear the full cost of primary school buildings. Fees of $1 are introduced for primary schools and $3 for secondary and technical pupils. Administration boarding school charges are $6 and the Missions up to $60.

The Institute of Higher Technical Education has its plans rejected as being too expensive. Junior Technical Schools become Vocational Schools and concentrate on practical work to better prepare the students to fit into the community. McKinnon wants secondary education extended to replace the expensive preliminary year at University.

You can read the 1967 abstracts in full here.

Defence: an important element of national power


FOR YEARS, the PNG Defence Force has been a misunderstood element of national power.

After numerous false starts and countless defence ministers, PNG needs a new defence White Paper. The last key policy document is some ten years old.

Despite important strategic changes within the region, the past three PNG governments have not had any defence reviews done and producing its own defence white paper.

It is important for PNG to have a good strategic plan and to be reviewed annually. Without complicating matters, some blend of corporate reorganization, realignment and renewal of a new nationally sustainable defence policy is needed.

PNG's first challenge is to enhance its sovereignty and security. We do this by bridging the gap between declared defence commitments and actual military capabilities.

Integral to our vision of a more credible defence posture are the realignment and consolidation of existing commitments, a vigorous modernization program for the next 15 years and beyond. This must include a sweeping reorganization, especially of our higher defence command.

The second challenge is to improve defence management in all core competence areas. That is, the way defence manages its equipment acquisition; its people's careers, planning in every area from how we fight to how we feed our people.

All these processes need to be revised due to military technological and management changes in the world this past decade. Defence cannot allow itself to become complacent in the face of great changes sweeping through our society and region.

The national priority task whether in defence or the whole country is to become the master of change rather than its servant. Change, be it technology or in the way we manage and organize ourselves, is something which the PNGDF needs to drive.

Any development challenges must be well managed at a time of budget constraints and during an extended time of peace.

Defence has several functions. The defence department as apart from being a self-accounting agency provides defence policy advice to government.

Its military arm - the PNGDF; carry out various security roles with specific tasks relating to: surveillance and response, monitoring, enforcement and interdiction missions, maritime law enforcement/coastguard tasks, border patrols, intelligence collation and dissemination, aid to the civil community, civic action tasks/nation building, remote area medical patrols, coast-watch duties, search and rescue, "mercy missions", showing the flag in remote maritime localities, ambassadorial good-will visits by ships, peace support operations with neighbours, etc).

Its span of diversified responsibilities simultaneously overlap into agencies like: police, fisheries, customs, health, environment & conservation, foreign and provincial affairs, works and transport departments, provincial and community governments, and so on.

Since 2001, no manpower review eventuated to have credible minimum levels of manning. PNG can have an affordable military if the defence Ministry plans well to first, get a realistic budget, and secondly, properly prioritize operations better.

Presently the PNGDF lacks a surge capacity as it is already cut to the bone. It can not mobilize quickly, if it has to respond to any defence emergency of a low-level contingency.

Present defence manpower system is grossly inappropriate for our new strategic circumstances. Consequently, despite the PNGDF's significance to our country's development and stability; defence issues and national security is unfortunately not given the priority attention by the government.

Additionally, its constitutional roles are highly specialized responsibilities that cannot simply be transferred to other government departments.

The PNGDF is a useful strategic management tool but governments have failed to fully understand its capability. The government must be more creative in how far it wants to put defence to work towards future development aims.

For instance, if our defence force was well resourced, it would very well compliment the works department 's program of improving remote district infrastructures - without the government unduly spending millions on civil contractors.

Finally, there are broader social challenges taking place in our society. These are important because the PNGDF remains part of our society. It draws people and skills from our wider community, and relies on community support to function effectively.

Here, the public must urge their MPs on the best ways available to defend our national interests, which defence and national security are an integral part of.

Last, but not the least; I encourage anyone here whether they be academics, diplomats, public servants, retired servicemen, journalists, students, politicians, representatives of industry, or a common villager to all participate as concerned citizens in an informed; and balanced public debate on matters of defence and national security of PNG.

Rugby: Genia to lead the Queensland Reds


Genia_Will WALLABY scrum half Will Genia will lead the Queensland Reds for the remainder of the Super 14 season following the season-ending knee injury to captain James Horwill.

Horwill is facing major surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation program after he was carried off midway through the second half of the Reds thrilling 41-20 win over the NZ Crusaders in Brisbane on Saturday night.

PNG-born Genia, 22, had an outstanding game combining brilliantly with his Wallaby five eighth Quade Cooper.

The Reds head coach Ewen McKenzie said Genia had already been identified for his leadership qualities and made vice captain at the start of the season.

“I am confident he will handle the additional responsibility, especially with the help of others in the team and with Horwill’s continued involvement off-field”.

Govt inaction as carbon cowboy rides again


THE PNG POST-COURIER reports that carbon cowboy, Kirk Roberts, of Nupan (PNG) Trading has galloped into the Papuan Gulf, fresh from his roundup in the PNG Highlands.

Previously, Mr Roberts’ modus operandi involved obtaining local people's Power of Attorney on the understanding that Nupan will sell their forest assets as carbon credits or carbon sinks on the open market.

Apparently these credits can be traded on the global market to electricity producers who use the credit to justify business as usual while claiming they are reducing carbon emissions due to the trade-off involved.

A worrying factor is the lack of any details provided by Nupan as to how income generated from selling credits will be distributed or what Mr Roberts and his backers will get for their efforts.

PNG has yet to legislate for carbon trading and the office tasked with this activity was disbanded after it printed millions of kina worth of false carbon credit certificates with Prime Minister Somare's signature on them.

Sir Michael later claimed these to be forgeries and, after copies were leaked to the press, the issuer said they were simply ‘drafts’.

Sir Michael has now moved to assert more control over this activity by creating a new office within a government department. But nothing appears to be happening.

Some educated Papua New Guineans have asked Mr Roberts’ supporters some hard questions about his scientific backing and where the money is coming from, so far without any persuasive answers.

People who know how easy it can be to hoodwink village people with claims of wealth for little effort will form their own views about this activity.

While Papua New Guineans can separate sheep from the goats, initially this can be difficult when dealing with new concepts, where there may not be a lot of opportunity to gain a full picture of the true situation.

There’s a clear need for government intervention to protect people’s interests and rights.

AusAID programs favour insiders: academic


IN A REVEALING criticism of AusAID, an Australian academic has suggested that the process of appointing consultants has been corrupted.

“Aid is an industry for profit. It's a business,” Dr Sinclair Dinnen of the Australian National University told AAP’s Ilya Gridneff.

“For many AusAIDers when they reach a certain age they switch over to consultancy. They know the AusAID system inside out. They know exactly what is required in order to win a bid,” he said

“They know the people who are likely to be sitting on the tender board, so they are very well positioned.”

Dr Dinnen, of the School of Pacific and Asian Studies, has written extensively about PNG and he believes Australians have to start asking whether their money is being effectively spent on aid programs.

“Clearly, on the basis of very obvious indicators like crime, corruption, jail breaks, things in PNG are clearly getting worse," he said.

Meanwhile Gridneff reports that almost half of Australia's foreign aid budget goes back to Australian companies and Australian experts working tax-free as highly paid consultants.

It’s a scenario in which aid givers and aid receivers can be perceived as having stewardship of a corrupt process at both ends of the aid pipeline.

AusAID figures reveal that Australian tax payers are shelling out billions of dollars a year for costly aid advisers and their subsequent fees to build "capacity" in recipient countries.

This is twice the rate of other countries' aid programs and it has clearly become a gravy train.

This year, Australia will give $414 million to PNG in aid but 46 percent of all aid goes to 'technical assistance' for accommodation costs and contracts.

Gridneff quoted an AusAID spokesperson as saying that advisers bring crucial skills that often do not exist locally. “In order to attract the best people to adviser positions, it's necessary to pay competitive market rates,” she said.

But Gary Lee from Aidwatch said Australian aid money needs to be spent on communities not consultants.

“Australians are not aware that such significant proportions of our aid budget goes to pay very high consultant wages, especially high, if you compare the rates to the average public servant in PNG or even Australia” he said.

“Part of the problem is also because there is a lack of transparency and accountability within AusAID," he said.

$400M gone: public funds down the drain in PNG

AAP REPORTS a PNG government committee as saying that accountability and transparency in the use of public money within all but five of one thousand government agencies has collapsed.

And MP Sam Basil says the Public Accounts Committee finding is a sign that PNG is a "failed state".

Committee chairman Timothy Bonga told the PNG Post-Courier that he was shocked by the poor result.

"In total, we have made inquiry into 1000 agencies, each examined from 2003 to 2008,” he said. "The findings have shown that the management and accountability by our public servants and the government has collapsed miserably".

Mr Bonga said the Bank of PNG, Institute of Public Administration, Post PNG, Goroka Base Hospital and Alotau Hospital were the only well-managed government entities.

In 2008, the Committee estimated that over the past ten years more than a one billion kina ($A400 million) had gone missing from government finances.

Spotter: Ross Wilkinson

Decision to allow labour into Australia okayed

WELL, AT LAST it seems to be happening.

Today’s PNG National reports that the Australian government has approved 650 fruit pickers from PNG to work in farms in Australia this year.

Foreign affairs minister Steven Smith said Papua New Guineans will be among 2,500 Pacific Islanders allowed to work on Australian farms.

A task force had been set up in PNG to establish provincial coordinators who will work closely with churches, police and community leaders to identify what are termed “good, young energetic men and women” to work in Australia.

PNG Foreign Minister Sam Abal said that recruitment will occur in all 22 provinces and provincial coordinators will work closely with churches, police and community leaders to identify Grade 10 and 12 school leavers.

He said the PNG government will first determine how many fruit pickers are required before recruitment starts.

“Those selected will go through some form of training before they are sent off to Australia,” he said

Mr Abal advised people not to listen to private consultants, companies or individuals claiming to represent his office and collecting fees and promising them jobs in Australia.

Spotter: Paul Oates

External media pick up their game on PNG


ROBIN MEAD observed in PNG Attitude a couple of weeks ago that it’s pleasing to see more serious coverage of PNG affairs in the Australian media, a sentiment I heartily endorse.

And in a discussion I had yesterday with Ian Clarke, president of the Australia-PNG Business Council, he indicated that the Council is examining how it may play a more active role in informing Australians about PNG, which is a welcome sign.

Then, in a special category occupied by very few journalists, is Max Uechtritz, head of programs of Al Jazeera Television, who is making a great effort to ensure that coverage of PNG is brought to international attention.

The latest offering from the network is this neat story about an alcohol ban in the Southern Highlands province in an effort to curb deadly feuding between rival clans.

The local people have been told they have until May 11 to drink or sell their alcohol.

Media put AusAID contracting under pressure


PORT MORESBY - A former AusAID senior transport adviser will spend the next two years in Vanuatu overseeing local labourers fixing pot holes at a cost to Australian taxpayers of $865,000.

Australian engineer Peter Kelly scored the plum job as part of Australia’s $17.3 million Vanuatu transport support program. He will be responsible for maintaining the tiny island nation's roads, wharves and airstrips.

AusAID spokeswoman Claire McGeechan said Mr Kelly will not manage "new roadworks or major upgrading work but (will) focus on maintenance".

Asked if he had the best job in the world, Mr Kelly told AAP all inquiries should be made through AusAID in Canberra. "I am not in a position to comment on those details," he said.

Ms McGeechan denied there was any conflict of interest in Mr Kelly winning an AusAID contract, even though he had been AusAID's top roads adviser. "Mr Kelly had no direct or indirect involvement in defining the role of this or related initiatives," she said.

Australian taxpayers also paid Dutch engineering company OCA $265,400 for a six-week design contract on the same program.

Mike Shone, a civil engineer and town planner, was on the AusAID bid evaluation panel that granted OCA's contract and is a former work colleague of OCA chief executive Rob Dingen. The pair spent close to 20 years at the International Labour Organization.

A 180-page Australian National Audit Office report tabled in federal parliament last November found "AusAID faces considerable management challenges amidst ongoing program growth".

"AusAID's approach to classifying costs is not in line with conventional practice and reduces the transparency of aid program expenditure, and the agency's accountability for costs that it controls," the report stated. - AAP

Nasfund: Bravely challenging the national silence


NASFUND is PNG’s national superannuation fund. It publishes a monthly newsletter that goes beyond investment, return on investment and redeployment of return on investment.

The newsletter cuts through to the quick of what is happening in PNG today and how this impacts on people, and why its members should be concerned.

NASFUND’s candid commentary - like the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce, which has joined the Coalition Against Corruption but unlike the excruciating silence of the Australia-PNG Business Council - transcends narrow self-interest to embrace the broader PNG national interest with words that are always worth reading.

Here is the editorial from the most recent NASFUND Newsletter:

On December 11, 2009, something fundamentally changed in Papua New Guinea.

One of the most important institutions of State, the Ombudsman Commission was sent a message. That message was delivered by an attempted assassination on the Chief Ombudsman himself, Chronex Manek.

Having attended a round of functions, he was followed only to be met by three gunmen as he attempted to enter the gates of his house. A bullet meant for his heart missed him by a few millimeters.

Let us be under no illusion about this attempted assassination. Chronex Manek was attacked for what he represents and for attempting to fulfill his role under the mandate of the Commission.

This brazen attack should concern everyone who believes in accountability, the rule of law and independence of institutions. There can be no room for vigilantes who feel that intimidation and avoidance of potential scrutiny can be dealt with by violence.

The attempted assassination is a direct attack on this country's future, its attractiveness for investment and its reputation.

It is an attack on the people of Papua New Guinea.

Surprisingly and worryingly there has been little to no reaction from members of Parliament or civil society to this matter. Have we become so fatigued by corruption, maladministration and abuse of the system that this episode is just but another to skim through briefly on our read of the daily newspapers?

Is this what we have now come too? This episode must not be forgotten. The Government and the police must ensure that those responsible are brought to justice. Failure to do so, turns this country backwards, tears at the constitution and makes a mockery of our democracy. This is not a direction any of us wish to see.

More power to NASFUND. More power to its decision to air its views.

Moresby again ranked in world’s ‘worst cities'

PORT MORESBY has again been ranked among the world's five worst cities in which to live.

It’s an improvement since 2004, when Port Moresby was ranked the worst city in the world on The Economist’s so-called ‘liveability index’ [go to it here].

But Moresby hasn’t managed to move very far up the league ladder despite massive amounts of foreign aid, relative political stability and sustained growth from a resources boom.

When a journalist from AAP rang National Capital District Governor, Powes Parkop, to comment on the ranking, he did not return the calls.

The ‘liveability index’ compiled by The Economist magazine ranked Port Moresby 137 out of 140 countries; one step below Lagos and one above Algiers and Dhaka.

The survey ranked Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, as the world's worst city, while this year's Winter Olympics host, Vancouver, ranked first.

Australia and New Zealand did pretty well, with Melbourne third, Sydney seventh and Perth and Adelaide equal eighth. New Zealand's Auckland was tenth and Wellington 23rd.

The Economist's assessment is based on "perceptions of development levels to assigning a hardship allowance as part of expatriate relocation packages" and focuses on stability, health care, education, infrastructure and culture and environment.

Spotter: Robin Mead

Porebada land killings should never happened


Angry Porebada villagers have told Deputy Prime Minister Sir Puka Temu they want former Deputy Prime Minister Sir Moi Avei arrested for questioning by police, and threatened to “wipe Boera village from the face of the earth’’.

The villagers said Sir Moi should be questioned over his actions leading to the recent violent deaths of five Porebada men. During the meeting, Sir Puka committed the State to pay for the funeral costs for the bodies – PNG Post-Courier, 2 February 2010


IN DECEMBER 2007, I presented the Donigi Plan for registering customary land to senior officers of the Department of Lands and Physical Planning.

The meeting was held at the department’s conference room and the presentation went well. All who attended appreciated the intricacies of the plan and supported its implementation.

The plan had been developed in consultation with the late Lohia Hitolo and members of the villages of Elevala, Tanobada, Kuriu, Araira, Tatana and Baruni between October and December 2007.

Mr Hitolo was instrumental in talking to the people of those villages. He brought the leaders together and facilitated an understanding between the members of the various clans.

It was not all plain sailing. There were tough words spoken and disagreements and even at one stage physical blows. Eventually the people got together and agreed on the Donigi Plan.

By January 2008 we had developed the Port Moresby Harbour port project, comprising 29 clans from the six villages. This was presented by Mr Hitolo and me to the Deputy Prime Minister, Sir Puka Temu, who at that time supported it. Since then we have been waiting for the title to be issued.

When other villages heard about the Plan they asked Mr Hitolo to speak about it. He brought the clan leaders of Roku, Porebada, Boera, Kirakira and Pari to speak with me and we went over the Donigi Plan with them. In all respects there was absolute transparency.

The starting point in the Donigi Plan is not who “owns” this portion of land but which “clan has a right to use” this land. These two questions define the difference between the government’s approach (the former) and the Donigi Plan (the latter). There exists a fundamental difference – philosophically, historically, legally and spiritually. The two plans cannot co-exist.

The government plan causes a division of the clan and promotes the divide and rule tactics historically used by colonialists worldwide, whilst the Donigi Plan unites clan members and all users of the land and is consistent with customary law. The Donigi Plan is legal in national law, as it complies with the Land Act 1996.

Sir Puka and the Secretary for Lands refused to implement the Donigi Plan. I believe this was in breach of their leadership obligations.

The Donigi Plan for registering customary land is the only legitimate and constitutional system available to Papua New Guineans for the registration of their land.

In my view, the refusal of the Minister to recognise and give effect to the Donigi Plan is an arbitrary act and in breach of the constitutional and ministerial responsibilities attached to the office of the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning.

This act by the Minister is therefore an affront to the people of PNG. The plan was first broached with the Minister in 2007 and several times in 2008. If it had been accepted, the Minister would have harvested all the kudos by now.

Instead the Minister’s steadfast refusal to recognise the Donigi Plan has contributed to the deaths of the young people of Porebada Village. The Minister must now act to rectify the situation. Coffin money alone is not sufficient.

You can read Peter Donigi’s full article here

A true PNGn dressed in a white man’s body


A memorial service to mark the death of Chris Diercke was held today in the community hall at Garden Suburb near Newcastle in NSW

CHRIS DIERCKE, historian of the Lark Force Wilderness Track, died on Sunday 31 January.

Chris played a huge role during the development of the Lark Force Wilderness Track in East New Britain.

He joined the team in December 2007, and displayed a genuine thirst for knowledge about the battle of Rabaul, which was made evident through his ability to reconnect with Lark Force diggers and their family members.

Chris made this story worth telling again and re-ignited a passion for the fallen soldiers of Rabaul, who, as we now know, were the forgotten soldiers of World War II.

In addition to the historical compilation on Lark Force that Chris engulfed himself in, he played an enormous role in training the Lark Force Wilderness Track porters and guides.

He took on the role of PNG representative of the International Porters Protection Group, an NGO that aims to protect the welfare of porters worldwide. The IPPG couldn’t have found a better person for the job.

In October 2009, a 20-foot container filled with medical supplies, boots and other materials was sent to Rabaul to assist local communities in the Bainings and Gazelle. The shipment had been arranged by Chris and his son Nathan.

On top of this Chris was a person who never forgot his roots. Those of you who got to meet him would know him as a true Papua New Guinean dressed in a white man’s body.

His love for PNG was clearly evident through his passion for his family history, which included great figures such as Queen Emma Coe and his great-grandmother, Phoebe Parkinson (Queen Emma’s sister).

People who had the opportunity to sit in on one of Chris’ presentations on his family, would share the same sentiment as me and say that this story was one that embedded not only his family’s identity but PNG’s identity. I truly believe PNG has lost one of its great story-tellers. His boots will be hard to fill.

I would like to take this opportunity to offer my condolences to Peta, Nathan, Emma, Kurt and Ryan. During this period of loss and sadness, I would like you to know we are sharing with you the loss of Chris, who was an inspiration to us all.

* The Kokopo-based Kori Chan is director of South Sea Horizons and the Lark Force Wilderness Track

Menzies’ government knocked back POW offer


IN A SENSATIONAL development, it has come to light that in 1953 the Federal government refused a Japanese offer to provide documents that might have led to the disclosure of the identities of the men who died on the Montevideo Maru.

One of the last remaining great mysteries of Australia’s involvement in World War II involves the precise identities of the estimated 1053 men (although there could have been more) who died in Australia’s worst maritime disaster when the Japanese ‘hellship’ Montevideo Maru was sunk by the US submarine Sturgeon off the Philippines..

Eight years after the war, on 15 October 1953, ten Allied governments including Australia, received a communication from Japan, known as a note verbale, seeking a reciprocal program to exchange prisoner of war name cards (meimeihyou) in accordance with the Geneva conventions.

The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that, although it did not feel bound by the conventions, it desired to “deliver the records of individual prisoners of war … who were in the hands of Japan during the Second World War”.

The Australian government did not respond to the request for 15 months, and when it did – on 18 January 1955 - it put a dampener on the exercise.

The Australian Embassy in Japan said that all the information Australia had on Japanese POWs and casualties had already been sent to Japan and concluded with these extraordinary words: “No useful purpose would be served by a further exchange of information... [The] Australian government does not wish to receive the records concerned..."

Australia was the only one of the ten countries involved, including New Zealand, not to exchange records.

A sombre Japanese Ministry for Foreign Affairs responded on 28 January 1955, just ten days later, that “if the Australian government does not desire to exchange the PW name card relating to Australians, we recognize that we have fulfilled our obligation...."

End of story. Until now, when these critical documents have surfaced in Japan after much effort by a diligent Japanese researcher.

The unearthing of the documents raises fascinating questions. Why did Australia opt out of the document exchange program? Was our government thoroughly convinced it had acquired all the data on the missing men during its occupation of Japan? And why, as the original Japanese roll had disappeared after it was brought back to Australia, did the Menzies’ government knock back an opportunity to confirm the names of the prisoners on the ship?

The uncovering of these documents suggests there may still be more relevant papers locked away in the official archives of Australia and Japan.

This amazing twist in the Montevideo Maru saga comes at a time when there is a renewed focus on trying to determine exactly who was aboard the ship when it was sunk on 1 July 1942.

As more that is discovered about this mystery, the more it seems to deepen.

Peter Tatterson, kiap & local government officer


WHATEVER DIFFICULTIES might currently be facing Australia's former Territory of Papua New Guinea, there was a band of Australian officials committed to pre-independence nation-building. Peter Tatterson was one of them.

A former patrol officer and senior officer in Gippsland local government, Peter has died in Melbourne after a three-year battle with cancer. He was 66.

Peter was a man who enjoyed travel and adventure, a drink and a laugh, and who loved to socialise and engage with people. He was born in Traralgon in 1944.  At Morwell High School, he was swimming champion, a success at athletics and a leading member of the Light Opera Society.

But by 1962 his sights were on bigger things and he left the valley to become a kiap in PNG. There were 35 cadet patrol officers on the 1962 course. There was to be a very high attrition rate; by the end of four years, only about 10 of the original group were still serving.

Tatterson's first postings were to Angoram on the banks of the Sepik River, and then Imonda on the then PNG/Dutch New Guinea border.

Daily life centred on foot patrols lasting from two weeks to three months, dealing with issues such as health, law and order, and political education. In this period, he helped establish local government at Imonda.

He returned home briefly most years, most importantly in late 1966 to marry his high school girlfriend Merrilyn Bond. Then it was back to PNG, when the couple were stationed on Karkar Island. Tatterson was adviser to the local council and played a major role in having it recognised as one of the most responsible and effective in PNG.

His next posting was to Rabaul, where he ended up at Vunadidir Local Government Training College as a lecturer. He left there and returned to Madang in late 1973 as an adviser to the Ambenob Local Government Council.

By 1974-75, PNG was approaching self-government and the Tattersons decided to return to Australia, where Peter took up a role in charge of administration at Morwell Shire before moving on to the then Rosedale Shire as chief executive.

He later became chief executive of the new South Gippsland Shire after councils throughout Victoria were amalgamated. Peter’s bright disposition and people skills came to the fore as he blended and led a new management team.

A final relocation to Melbourne suited his passion for sport, and it was no coincidence that he lived within walking distance of the MCG. The premiership triumphs of his beloved Bombers were high points, as was the 2007 World Cup cricket tour to the West Indies.

Peter is survived by Merrilyn, three daughters - Shannon, Abbey and Holly - and five grandchildren.

* Gary Tatterson is Peter Tatterson's brother and Peter Colton is a friend and former patrol officer in PNG.

Source: The Age, 10 February 2010

New book examines PNG's colonial history

SIR SINAKA GOAVA died in 2003 without realising his dream of one day publishing a book.

However, he had laid the groundwork by archiving manuscripts and his good friend Br Patrick Howley had recorded extensive interviews with him.

Now, nearly seven years after Sir Sinaka’s death, senior PNG political figure, Sir Peter Barter, has launched the book Crossroads to Justice: Colonial Justice and a Native Papuan.

Sinaka Goava was a prominent Papuan colonial-era figure and the book tells his struggle to get his father, James Goava Oa, out of jail.

Mr Oa, from Delena village in Kairuku, was a noted public servant who was jailed for life for murdering a sorcerer.

In 1931 he was jailed, eventually being sentenced to life imprisonment in 1939 after an eight year trial. Thereafter, his eldest son, Sinaka, despite limited knowledge of legal practice, began a long effort to get his father released.

It took a long time. James Oa was eventually freed in April 1963 after 32 years in prison.

At the book launch, Sir Peter Barter said Sir Sinaka was a remarkable public servant and leader of his time.

He praised the book as one that will enable Papua New Guineans to understand life in the formative years of the country.

Br Patrick Howley said Sir Sinaka was one of the most honest and hardworking Papua New Guineans he had ever met and he was pleased to help him publish the book.

Footnote: Crossroads to Justice: Colonial Justice and a Native Papuan, Divine Word University Press, K45 (posted). Contact Br Howley at or phone 7174 6408. Readers in Australia can buy the book from Br Pat Howley for $30 through Paypal inclusive of handling and postage.

Source: The National Friday 5 February 2010

PNG Attitude welcomes its 400th subscriber

IT WAS JUST three months ago that the PNG Attitude e-magazine registered subscriber number 300.

The 400th, Mark Bousen, publisher/editor of the Torres News, has just signed up for a free subscription.

About 60 subscribers are Papua New Guineans and around another 40 live in PNG.

This blog has just celebrated its fourth anniversary, the first article being published on 6 February 2006.

Since then we’ve published 1,454 stories and 1,641 comments as we pursue our goal of strengthening relationships between the peoples of Australia and PNG.

If you haven’t subscribed already, you can do so here.

NB, Michael & Kevin: CIA’s worrying data on PNG


US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said she wanted to discuss women's issues on her recently cancelled visit to PNG.

The CIA’s official brief on PNG, from its World Factbook (link to it here), offers some reasons why she may have wanted to put this matter on the agenda, which I canvass below.

In doing so, I muse whether anyone in DFAT thought of raising these shocking facts at last year’s South Pacific Forum.

With the next Forum to be held in Australia and chaired by prime minister Kevin Rudd, this issue will surely be addressed.

So to the World Factbook, which points to a number of debilitating problems plaguing PNG.

International disputes

The CIA says that PNG relies on assistance from Australia to keep out illegal cross-border activities from (mainly) Indonesia, including smuggling, narcotics trafficking, squatters and secessionists.

As PNG Attitude has revealed recently, the cross Torres Strait traffic suggests that Australia is not doing such a good job itself.

People trafficking

The CIA’s analysis is that PNG is a country of destination for women and children from Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and China, trafficked mainly for commercial sexual exploitation but also for involuntary domestic servitude.

The CIA says PNG is not making significant efforts to comply with minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Further, that its legal framework does not effectively deal with trafficking, that it lacks victim protection services, that it has no systematic procedure to identify victims of trafficking and that (in 2007 anyway) the government did not prosecute anyone for trafficking. PNG has also not ratified the 2000 UN trafficking protocol.

Illicit drugs

The CIA indicates PNG as a major consumer of cannabis.

Note to Kevin and Michael: You’ve got to do much better on this.

ASOPA’s flame flickers weakly, but never dies


LATE LAST year the Australian Association for the Advancement of Pacific Studies (AAAPS) published A National Strategy for the Study of the Pacific - designed to improve Australia’s understanding and engagement with the region.

The report lays out a blueprint for more effectively developing regional relationships, and one of its key recommendations is to create an Australia-Papua New Guinea Institute. (You can see the report in its entirety here.)

The Institute wouldn’t be the Australian School of Pacific Administration, or the International Training Institute, so ruthlessly killed off by AusAID’s predecessor, but it would maintain the same spirit of intelligent engagement.

An annex to the report, authored by Prof Clive Moore of Queensland University and me, gives more detailed consideration to this matter. Here’s an extract…


TOO OFTEN, it seems Australia dispatches to the Pacific personnel who are under-prepared for their role.

The contributions these people make to national public services are frequently ineffective and may leave a residue of resentment amongst nationals whose high expectations were unrequited.

On the other hand, anecdotal evidence suggests that many Pacific Islands public servants, although equipped with a university degree, find difficulty in operating efficiently because an ‘idealised’ education in developed countries has not equipped them appropriately for the realities they face back home.

The foregoing examples all point to a ‘strategic imbalance’ in the relationship between Australia and Pacific islands nations at the point at which planning transforms into delivery.

This imbalance derives from a mismatch between the intentions and expectations of development aid and the realities of its implementation.

From 1947-73 the Australian Government operated the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA) at Mosman in Sydney. ASOPA’s main function was to train Australian patrol and education officers to work in Australian territories, primarily Papua New Guinea and the Northern Territory.

A core attribute of then training was to equip these young Australians for the precise cultural and physical environment in which they would have to deliver the desired public policy outcomes.

In 1973, with independence looming in PNG, ASOPA was integrated into the structure of the Australian Development Assistance Agency/Bureau as the International Training Institute.

It trained people, generally at the level of middle management, from developing nations in the Pacific, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, generally in three-month programs in areas such as human resource management, industrial relations, health administration, communications development, educational administration etc. ITI was disestablished in 2001.

Conclusions of current relevance that can be derived from the cases of ASOPA and ITI are that specific training is needed to equip professionals to engage knowledgeably with the cultural and social environments in which they will be operating in the Pacific and that there is a beneficial effect when comparative country experience is brought to the training process by participants themselves.

There needs to be role equalization between sponsors and participants to avoid any suggestion of paternalism (top-down direction or “we’re helping you” intimations).

Great benefits occur from facilitated dialogue (including expert contributions) among people of influence in their own countries interacting, addressing issues and sharing knowledge with people of influence from other countries.

Read the full paper here.

Secret report: Is Australia about to act on PNG?


THE LATEST PNG Attitude e-magazine, distributed to subscribers yesterday, highlighted the significance of Kevin Rudd’s delay in appointing new Parliamentary Secretaries for Pacific Island Affairs and Development Assistance.

The view was offered that these tasks may revert to be part of the main Foreign Affairs portfolio.

PNG Attitude has since gained a further insight into this important issue for PNG.

We have been tipped off that that Kevin Rudd’s second favourite academic, Ross Garnaut, and former PNG prime minister, Rabbie Namaliu, a man of great integrity, have been commissioned to prepare a report on the relationship between Australia and PNG.

While this secret report is prepared, considered and given some petrol to run on, the Pacific Island Affairs position has been allowed to lapse.

We have no details of the terms of reference of the Garnaut-Namaliu study, other than that its intention is to set future policy.

But this unusual development must be sending a clear signal to PNG that warm words and fine sentiments are no longer good enough for Australia.

The relationship - fractured while the Howard government was in office - was quickly repaired by Rudd and Duncan Kerr when Labor won government in 2007.

But, since then, in terms of expectations of effective and ethical national governance, aid deployment and other issues, PNG has been playing Australia off a break.

It was only a matter of time before the Australian government, tiring of the antics of its northern neighbour, responded to this.

PNG’s serious governance problems and last year’s bolshie behaviour over Fiji by the Melanesian states sent ominous signals to Australia and New Zealand.

With profound political change looming in PNG, it seems Mr Rudd is doing some deep thinking. If he is, it’s not a moment too soon.

This looks like a big week in PNG politics


A CRITICAL WEEK looms for PNG’s governing National Alliance Party as Sir Michael Somare spends the weekend putting the finishing touches on a Cabinet reshuffle.

Party heavyweights have already publicly expressed anger that Sir Michael may be contemplating a handover of the leadership to his son, Arthur.

Members of the Alliance from Momase, Highlands, Southern and Islands regions – pretty much all of PNG – are unhappy that Arthur appears to be pushing Sir Michael to become Prime Minister.

It is understood Sir Michael has been ill and that the reshuffle may bring the leadership issue to a head.

Sir Michael’s media adviser and daughter, Betha Somare, denied the leadership talk, saying Sir Michael’s preference for the next leader is his deputy, Sir Puka Temu.

The Highlands bloc in the National Alliance is positioning itself for the reshuffle and seeking extra clout. The Islands bloc is divided, with one faction urging Sir Michael to sack Planning Minister Paul Tiensten. The Papuan bloc, led by Deputy Prime Minister Sir Puka Temu, is said to be “stable and united”.

Bust Meanwhile the PNG Chief Justice has been asked to appoint a leadership tribunal to inquire into allegations of misconduct in office against Treasurer and Finance Minister Patrick Pruaitch [right].

Pruaitch is accused of:

Double dipping into support vehicle allowance. The minister is alleged to have received support vehicle allowance while at the same time using a 24-hour fully maintained car.

Double dipping into operational cost allowances for support vehicle. The minister is alleged to have improperly received operational cost allowances for his support vehicle while the vehicle was fully maintained by the State.

Improper receipt of public funds for fuel costs for private vehicles. Pruaitch is alleged to have sought and improperly allowed his spouse and associates to receive reimbursements from PNG Forest Authority for fuel costs his family cars’ incurred.

Double dipping into entertainment allowance. He is alleged to have asked for and received reimbursement from NFS funds expended on entertainments when he was receiving entertainment allowances.

Misappropriation of 2003 District Services Grant. He allegedly improperly disbursed the discretionary component and it appeared that he made cash check payments to business houses.

Failure to give on time annual statements and non disclosure in 2001/2002, 2002/2003. 2003/2004 and 2004/2005.

Failed to declare gifts – knowingly, recklessly or negligently gave to the commission an annual statement that was false and misleading contrary to section 4 (6) (b) of the Organic Law on Duties and Responsibilities of Leadership.

But Mr Pruaitch is fighting back, saying there are serious doubts about validity and fairness of process. He has also received the backing of the powerful Momase (Sandaun, East Sepik, Madang and Morobe) bloc of the National Alliance Party.

Mr Pruaitch will be automatically suspended from office if the tribunal, headed by Deputy Chief Justice Gibbs Salika, convenes to inquire into the allegations.

This will be a blow to Sir Michael as Mr Pruiatch is one of his senior MPs and deputy leader of the National Alliance Party in the Momase region.

There is continuing speculation that Sir Michael is thinking of quitting politics next year.

Sir Michael has in the past not been keen to replace senior MPs who have allegations made against them. He has also been reluctant to ask them to step aside while investigations proceed.

With Reginald Renagi

February’s PNG Attitude is with subscribers

If you’re not already a (free) subscriber to our monthly PNG Attitude e-magazine, this might be a good time to start. Drop an email here.

February offers the usual BRIEFING on the PNG-Australia relationship and OPINION from our commentariat. And there’s the popular FEEDBACK section, with succinct summaries of the best comment from the blog. And more.

Adopt the right Attitude.

Ramu nickel mine is ‘broad daylight rape’

A LEADING PNG geologist says the Ramu Nickel mine has been massively undervalued and is another example of the “broad daylight rape” of PNG’s resources.

Jerry Garry claims the $40 billion mine has been sold to the Chinese for just 5% of its true value.

“Sadly, the government is continuously under selling multi-billion-dollar resources because it lacks analytical skills” Mr Garry says, adding that this lack of knowledge and skills is further compounded by greed and ignorance.

Mr Garry has called on the government to “act radically and swiftly in changing the current trends in order to maximise realisation of the natural resources for PNG”.

Mr Garry estimates the Ramu Nickel mine is worth $40 billion and not $2 billion.

“The Ramu laterite deposit contains 1.44 million tons of nickel and 0.143 million tons of cobalt. At today’s buoyant prices the value stands at about $40 billion.

Mr Garry, who has worked with international exploration companies said the mine will produce in excess of 31,000 tons of nickel and 3300 tons cobalt annually for at least 20 years.

He said that 85% of the ownership of the Ramu resource was sold to a Chinese state-owned enterprise for 5% of its total value.


IT APPEARS that the Bougainville Copper mine might have been a minnow compared with the new big fish like Ramu.

So what happens if the locals start getting physical, as in Bougainville?

Will the mine owners shut down, pack up and clear off? What will Australia do if the mine owners want to establish their own security force?

There are reports of RPNGC personnel being hired to protect mine sites, however it doesn't take much imagination to extrapolate this to the introduction of foreign 'security'.

Would the PNG government know what was going on anyway?

Would those in charge care anyway? The Commission of Inquiry into last May’s anti-Asian riots was effectively closed down by Somare after the chairman was sacked because he told some home truths about what underpinned the civil uprisings.

High Commissioner Kemish gets down to business

With Somare

THE NEW Australian high commissioner to PNG, Ian Kemish, recently arrived in Port Moresby, has had his first meeting with Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare.

The Tok Pisin-speaking Mr Kemish grew up in Port Moresby when his parents were teaching at the University of Papua New Guinea in the 1970s.

He said: “I am more than happy to come back and serve in the place where I grew up and I am looking forward to working closely with everyone.”

Sir Michael welcomed Mr Kemish and assured him of his support during his tenure.

“I assure you my government will continue to strengthen the cordial bilateral ties we have with Australia,” Sir Michael said, and extended an invitation for the Australian diplomat to visit other parts of PNG.

Photo: The National

Concerns grow that Pacific job may be axed


THERE IS growing concern among Pacific Island countries that Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd is about to abolish the position of Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs.

The position has been vacant since Duncan Kerr resigned in October and announced he would quit parliament this year to concentrate on a law career in Tasmania.

Kerr, Dean of Law at UPNG from the late 1970s to the mid 1980s, built up strong personal contacts in the Pacific Islands. He is highly respected in the region for his initiatives and refreshing approaches to Pacific issues.

There are suggestions that Foreign Minister Stephen Smith plans to take responsibility for Pacific Island affairs.

One Labor source, quoted in the Canberra Times, says Smith did not particularly enjoy having to deal with parliamentary secretaries.

Calls by your correspondent to the Minister’s office have not been returned.

PNG High Commissioner in Canberra, Charles Lepani, has expressed frustration over the apparent lack of progress in replacing Mr Kerr. “We in PNG are concerned that no replacement has yet been announced.”

PNG’s attitude is shared by other Pacific Island diplomats, and also by academics.

Pacific specialist at the Australian National University, Sinclair Dinnen, said the delay in appointing a replacement was “not a good signal”.

Dr Dinnen told PNG Attitude it was vital a new parliamentary secretary be appointed as a matter of urgency.

“I don’t think the Foreign Minister can do it justice on his own because he has more than enough on his plate further afield,” he said.

Last month, Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, Bob McMullan, also announced he would not contest the general election later this year but would remain in the job until then.

Ironically, prime minister Rudd is chairman of the 16-member Pacific Islands Forum, the intergovernmental organisation which aims to enhance cooperation between independent countries of the Pacific Ocean.

Will Genia is a 'big name' in rugby union


AUSTRALIA’S RUGBY boss, John O’Neill, predicts the dawn of a new era in Australian rugby union, and has named PNG-born Will Genia among the code’s “big names”.

O’Neill was speaking at the launch of the 2010 Super 14 season that includes teams from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

“Twelve months ago,” he said, “you’d be wondering who Will Genia was. Now, Will Genia happens to be among the top half backs in the world”.

The 21-year-old, who plays for the Queensland Reds, had a meteoric rise through Australian Rugby last year, culminating in the Wallabies tour of Europe and selection for the Barbarians against New Zealand.

Call for greater kiap, police recognition in PNG


IN TODAY'S issue of The National, there is a letter from Albert A Mula QPM, a retired police officer in the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary.

Mr Mula suggests that the PNG government should recognise the work of the police and corrective services personnel who worked together with kiaps. One wonders what success this request may have with the PNG government?

Should the PNG government provide some worthwhile recognition of these former employees and their essential role in developing and building their nation, it would contrast significantly with the current Australian government's recent response to a similar request.

By the way, wasn't Michael Somare's father once a policeman?


Reward colonial kiaps and cops

SURVIVING kiaps obviously would want some form of recognition and remuneration, not only as reward for their undivided loyalty and sacrifices during the pre-Independence era but also to make life a little easier in their old age.

It is a fact that police officers who were deployed to assist kiaps did not only work hand in hand with them but also took a courageous and fearless leading role in quelling tribal clashes and other social disorders, especially in the Highlands region.

Hence, respect for authority was imminent, unlike today. Some police officers paid the ultimate price with their lives in the line of duty and others who were seriously injured must be recognised and rewarded accordingly.

Officers deployed nationwide in those days performed their duties
exceptionally well and in doing so, helped support political leadership to shape PNG's political destiny, through self-government and Independence, peacefully and without bloodshed.

The remaining veterans, like me, must be given the same recognition we deserve and be rewarded for all the sacrifices made to bring PNG to nationhood.

Through this communique, I call on the remaining surviving Police and CS officers, who joined their respective disciplines before 1973, to support this stand for our Government to recognise and reward us together with the kiaps, similar to what Canberra is doing or has done to its citizens who served in PNG prior to Independence.

Can the Police and CS hierarchy take on board this issue with the ultimate aim of rewarding this group of public servants, in recognition of their sacrifices?

Also spotted by Reginald Renagi

PNGDF risks irrelevancy unless Agwi succeeds


DEFENCE COMMANDER Francis Agwi has not wasted time since being appointed to the job in December.

I have the impression that at long last we will see fundamental changes to the way the PNGDF is commanded and managed.

General Agwi has confirmed that he will fix the force on his watch. Those before him have not fared well.

Upon getting the top security job, Agwi immediately made his intentions known to his command, the government and the country.

His first task is to attend to pressing personnel issues that previously have been swept under the carpet.

From my discussions with him, I understand that General Agwi will:

Review the PNGDF’s role and structure, establishing priorities for the next decade, attending to internal security issues and examining the military’s involvement in civic action and national development.

Analyse the balance between personnel, operations and capital assets to provide detailed budgetary guidance to government.

Recommend that the PNGDF be made an effective force by focusing on three key national roles (sovereignty defence, internal security and civic action projects to support national development).

Work towards a balanced force relevant to PNG’s unique strategic environment in the next ten years.

Despite several past recommendations, the defence organisation has not fully carried out action required to improve operational effectiveness.

The reduction of personnel in 2001 seriously eroded capacity and weakened the PNGDF without offering any tangible savings.

Contracting out of non-core areas, such as major maintenance, to the private sector has not being done.

The PNGDF cutbacks initiated by a former government failed PNG. It has not resulted in a well equipped force with resources available for operations and training.

Despite numerous statements by the Defence Council and much political rhetoric from several prime ministers, the PNGDF has still not being appropriately structured to meet PNG’s pressing internal security, and national development needs as well as the protection of PNG’s territorial integrity and valuable resources.

The PNGDF will become irrelevant if the government does not act soon to meet the challenges.

Chris Diercke – committed to the family heritage

Chris Diercke, who died last weekend, recently made his last visit to Rabaul. Just before he died, he sent me this news feature by GRACE TIDEN, of the PNG Post-Courier.

Torso FOR CHRIS DIERCKE, bringing back the ashes of his father and brother to a foreign land was challenging. The place held a lot of memories of their ancestors.

The Australian had to be there to make sure his father and brother were buried next to their ancestors.

The small, emotional ceremony was held recently at the family cemetery at Kuradui in Kokopo, East New Britain, and it was attended by other descendants of the Parkinson lineage, including Chris’s two sons Kurt and Ryan.

Chris buried his father, Rudolf Carl Maximilian Diercke, and brother, Michael Bernard Diercke, next to his grandmother, Nellie Parkinson, his great grandmother Phoebe Parkinson and great grandfather Richard Parkinson.

Phoebe was the daughter of a Samoan princess born to JM Coe and Le’Utu Malietoa and was the sister of Queen Emma, who once had a business empire in the Gazelle Peninsula.

Before arriving in the shores of New Britain, Phoebe married Richard Parkinson, the illegitimate son of a Duke who was second in line to the Danish throne and a palace seamstress.

Parkinson was a scientist, and found his way to Samoa where he married 16 year old Phoebe, 25 years his junior.

The couple moved to New Britain in 1882 to be with Emma, who had arrived a few years earlier, and they established Kuradui Plantation.

In 1909 Richard died and was buried at Kuradui according to his wish. The burial site has become a family cemetery for the descendants.

Phoebe died in Namatanai in 1944after being captured and imprisoned by the Japanese. Chris’s father, Rudolf, was also imprisoned but survived.

Rudolf later ran a number of plantations in East New Britain and married Gwendolyn Stockton in 1947. They had five children including Chris.

Rudolf died in Newcastle in 1984 and his ashes were preserved until such time his children were able to bury him at Kuradui. Chris kept that promise and also brought the ashes of his brother Michael who died in 2008.

The site of the cemetery is on Melki Todoeta’s land, which he bought years ago after the plantation was sold. There is a close bond between Parkinson’s descendants and Melki, who looks after the cemetery.

Leahy out of intensive care; debate rages


RICHARD LEAHY has been moved out of intensive care in Brisbane although his condition is still serious after an aircraft tragedy.

Mr Leahy, 68, piloted the Kiunga Aviation aircraft that crashed in the rugged Saruwaget Ranges of Morobe Province on 30 December, killing all six passengers.

Mr Leahy survived, suffering burns to much of his body.

“Richard is out of ICU, but not yet out of danger,” his wife Robin told The National. “He has a very long way to go, months probably, and there are ups and downs each day.”

“We are all keeping our fingers crossed and sending positive thoughts and prayers for his continued recovery.”

Meanwhile, pressure mounts on Morobe Governor, Luther Wenge, who has refused to apologise to Mr Leahy after threatening to have him charged with manslaughter and deported.

Mr Wenge lost family members in the crash.

Last week, Mr Wenge said he did not regret having made the remarks.

He said the Cessna 185 was old and could have been replaced with the “millions” Mr Leahy had made.

New commander sets his defence agenda


AFTER FRANCIS AGWI became commander of the PNG Defence Force last December, I paid him a courtesy call.

My desire was to find out the general’s agenda for the PNGDF in 2010 and beyond.

My impression was positive. I felt satisfied that several key aspects of defence and security I’d been promoting in the media appeared as salient points in the command’s recent ‘statement to the nation’.

Judging from this, the rest of 2010 promises to be an interesting period for the PNGDF and we can expect a new defence capability plan by the year’s end.

General Agwi’s foreshadowed new policy developments but he is serious that the PNGDF get ‘back to basics’.

He assured the government, the military and the people of PNG that “the Force is in good hands” and that its loyalty to the constitution remains unquestionable.

In terms of defence reform, Agwi takes a different approach from his predecessor. As commander, he is not waiting for a 2030 vision but wants to see things happen in the next decade. He plans to speed up the reform.

He plans to rebuild the PNGDF on what he calls a “4R strategy - reconsolidation, reconstruction, redevelopment and reevaluation.

Agwi plans to review PNGDF roles and functions to closely align them with the government’s long-term vision and he wants them to focus om national security, international relations, resource protection and nation building.

A new force build-up plan will be needed as, since reducing to 2000, there has been no real capacity to change. People issues also pre-occupy Commander Agwi, who is taking personal responsibility for some that demand immediate attention.

The next ten years will see the PNGDF addressing issues of capability development, retraining and reskilling of personnel, buying equipment and introducing new technology.

In future, defence will have to decide whether to train for war against an invisible enemy or focus on defending PNG’s sovereignty, people and rich natural resources.

The PNGDF needs to measure its own success and growth through a process of self-evaluation - annual reviews, auditing and inspections.

General Agwi writes a new chapter for the PNGDF by continuing the reforms started in 2002 with a different strategy. If past trends are any indication, this writer believes the new commander seems serious about getting the PNGDF back on track.

He hopes to do it by speeding things up and reviewing roles; along with realistic missions, budget and future government support.

Welcome aboard, Sir!

Chris Diercke, educator & Lark Force historian


Head CHRIS DIERCKE, who had a passion to uncover the truth of what happened to the people imprisoned in Rabaul after the Japanese invasion of January 1942, has died.

Chris was born at Vunapope near Rabaul, a direct descendant of Samoa's royal family and Queen Emma, who established the first commercial enterprises in New Britain in 1884.

His mother was evacuated from Rabaul just before the Japanese invasion in early 1942. His father, Rudolf, a German national, spent most of the war in a Japanese internment camp as punishment for helping the crew of a downed American bomber. His 82-year-old great-grandmother, Phebe, died in the camp.

His mother's first husband, New Ireland planter Vivian Ives, was one of more than 30 people murdered by the Japanese in February 1944 in a massacre at Kavieng Wharf.

Chris was born in 1948 and lived in PNG until moving to Australia for his tertiary education.

After graduating in Armidale in 1974, he spent nearly four decades as a teacher, including many years teaching history, and school principal.

In retirement he committed himself to PNG affairs as a team member of the Lark Force Wilderness Track trekking project, as PNG’s representative on the International Porter Protection Group, and as a committee member of both the PNG Association and the Montevideo Maru Memorial Trust.

His passions were Lark Force history, mentoring and training, and developing the wilderness track in the Gazelle Peninsula as a tribute to Lark Force, which had garrisoned Rabaul in the face of the Japanese invasion.

"The Australian government officials and military top brass never had any interest in Rabaul," he once said. "These buggers were trapped and the response was a real shambles. I think many want to forget it all together."

Chris lived in Newcastle, where he had spent many years as principal of the Garden Suburb Public School, but returned to PNG regularly as a teacher and mentor. He spoke fluent Pidgin and Kuanua (Tolai).

Just before he died, Chris – working in collaboration with Japanese researcher Harumi Sakaguchi - felt he was close to establishing the whereabouts of the missing nominal roll, listing the civilian and military personnel who were aboard the Montevideo Maru when it was sunk in 1942.

He was convinced that, instead of the accepted figure of 1,053 prisoners, there could have been 1,080 or more on the ship.

Chris has been instrumental in the development of the Lark Force Wilderness Track, which he aimed to establish as a benchmark for the fair treatment of porters in PNG.

He was also working as a volunteer for South Sea Horizons, a small group promoting New Britain treks on behalf of tribal landowners, who had embraced the project with great enthusiasm.

Chris was a good man, committed to the welfare of PNG and its people. He will be very much missed.

Additional information from Andrea Williams

‘Hardly ever’ not enough in national governance


SIR WILLIAM GILBERT was subtle in his reflections on human frailty.

In the operetta HMS Pinafore, the ship’s captain claimed he was never seasick or unfaithful. ‘Never’ he emphatically maintained, yet when continually pressed by the crew with a “What never?” he conceded “Well… hardly ever!”

When obeying the law is the issue, the concession “hardly ever’ or “usually” would give government auditors a severe case of dyspepsia.

Traditional Melanesian culture often abhors a direct approach on personal matters, lest those being spoken about take offence. An indirect approach is therefore used to discuss sensitive matters.

In Tok Pisin, this is known as tok bokis. This expression refers to the way a person talks about the outside of the box, not about what the box contains. Everyone knows what is being indirectly discussed without any direct reference.

In face to face encounters in a traditional PNG village setting, tok bokis is essential if the discussion is not to descend into personal conflict due to someone taking offence if they felt personally disparaged or affronted.

Traditional Melanesian culture has been catapulted into the national spotlight n PNG. Firstly, by Prime Minister Somare himself who, at independence, said he would set the benchmark and institute the Melanesian way to govern PNG.

In more recent times, many Papua New Guineans and outside observers have targeted Somare and his government for maladministration, malfeasance and worse. For Papua New Guineans to directly blame Somare for their country’s ills could be seen as culturally difficult, yet many are now openly doing just that.

To the outsider this is a significant cultural shift, although many people revere Somare’s role as the first prime minister after independence.

The writer’s perspective on cultural matters is drawn from nearly 40 years of government service in Australia and some Australian territories (PNG included).

If some people find this perspective blunt and inflexible, perhaps that is the Internal Audit experience coming to the fore. Either the law and government directives are being followed or they are not. You can’t have a ‘nearly always’ answer.

The central issue about today’s PNG government must be, ‘Is it working and working well?’ If the answer is ‘No!’, then a change in direction is required.

Clearly the people currently at the helm have no idea of where to go or what to do. There is only one direction to take. Any deviation from the straight and narrow puts the ship of state into the baret. Now if you can’t steer safely, you shouldn’t be at the wheel.